Meet your SONAMI Project Manager – Part Two

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is a network of eight academic institutions, all with specific capabilities, expertise and state-of-the-market equipment to bring your innovation to market.

The projects at our network of institutions are run by a dynamic group of Project Managers. This is the second of a two-part series designed to introduce you to our SONAMI Project Management Team. Are you a small- or medium-sized company wanting to find out how you can collaborate with SONAMI? Meet the experts you can connect with to discuss your idea and possible funding.

Meet the experts you can connect with to discuss your idea and possible funding.


Eric Blaise
is the Director of Applied Research and Innovation at Centennial College and is responsible for industry-College applied research collaborations in the field of aerospace, surface transportation and energy. He also oversees advanced manufacturing projects funded through the SONAMI network.

Q. Why would an SME work with SONAMI?
A. As a business, you have limited resources (human resources, equipment, capital); working with the SONAMI partners allows SMEs to tap into that expertise, access equipment and leverage funding – all aspects that can help SMEs innovate and be competitive. Another benefit of working with SONAMI is that SMEs can potentially access all SONAMI partners and their resources, not just one institution.

Q. What are you most proud of?
A. I’m the proudest of having the courage to start a business and being an entrepreneur before my current role. Being an entrepreneur taught me so many things related to managing employees and customers that I still use to this day when I interact with companies. I now have a lot of respect for people taking the risks of starting their company.

Q. What have you learned while working through the pandemic?
A. Taking all of Centennial College’s aerospace applied research projects remote has taught me to empower my team a lot more and allow them to make a lot more decisions without my input.

Connect with Eric: [email protected]
Visit Applied Research and Innovation at Centennial HERE



Colleen McCann is a Project Manager with Conestoga’s College’s SMART Centre for Research and Innovation. She leads projects primarily focused on mechanical and automation, complementing her background of 20 years within automated manufacturing industries. She is also the College’s lead resource for SONAMI-related projects and funding.

Q. What is exciting about SONAMI?
A. Projects are so diverse, and that really pushes me to get out of my comfort zone. Having the opportunity to learn about the client’s business and needs, and then to deliver tailored solutions to help move their business forward is very rewarding.

Q. Where do you find your ‘zone’ at work?
A. I’m happiest when I can get my hands on technology and work side-by-side with my team to solve problems, innovate solutions and make things better. 

Q. What have you learned while working through the pandemic?
A. We’ve all had to adjust to a new working normal, and connecting with partners and colleagues in meaningful ways is more challenging today, but the pandemic has also brought more opportunities to appreciate each other in deeper ways. Empathy – both for yourself and others – the art of giving yourself a break and then coming back to refocus on hitting your goals, is key right now.

Connect with Colleen: [email protected]
Visit Conestoga’s SMART Centre for Research and Innovation HERE



Mustafa Khadir is the Industry Development Coordinator with the Fanshawe Centre for Research and Innovation and supports the partnering and collaborating with key industry stakeholders. He also delivers research projects as Principle Investigator (PI) with a focus on assessing and executing growth opportunities through automation and scale-up of operations, supported by SONAMI grant funding.

What is the most interesting SONAMI project you’ve been involved with?

The scale-up of an SME operation to achieve growth and shift from B2C to B2B. I have delivered two projects within the same scope and identified key challenges probably most SMEs in their early years would face once progress in business success emerges.

What are you learning through the pandemic?
Shifting 100 per cent to working remotely has meant higher dependence on communication skills to effectively run meetings, lead workshops, etc… It is indeed a complete virtual world.


Connect with Mustafa: [email protected]
Visit the Fanshawe Centre for Research and Innovation HERE



Joel Hodgson is the Manager of the Lambton Manufacturing Innovation Centre (LMIC) at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario. His team supports industry through projects, services and training across sectors in manufacturing.

Q. What are you learning through the pandemic?
A. Empathy, honesty and open communication are more important now more than ever. Making time to stay in communication with both internal and external stakeholders is essential when you can’t see each other in person.

Q. Most interesting SONAMI project you’ve been involved with?
A. Our COVID-19 response projects, manufacturing hand sanitizer and PPE, which directly impacted our first responders’ ability to safely support those in need.

Q. How has the pandemic impacted research?
A. We have been working more remotely, which has meant we need to be creative and proactive in how we brainstorm. We’re doing the same projects as before to support manufacturing, but have also supported community organizations in product, process and software development in the fight against COVID-19.

Connect with Joel: [email protected]
Visit the Lambton Manufacturing Innovation Centre HERE

Sherif Abdou - Mohawk College Project Manager

Sherif Abdou is the Interim General Manager of the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) at Mohawk College, and supports the staff, students and industry partners on the delivery of applied research projects.

Q. If you ran an SME, why would you want to work with SONAMI?

A. A few years ago, I co-founded a start-up company and we reached out to AMIC to help us optimize our product’s design for additive manufacturing. Through support from SONAMI and the expertise at AMIC, we successfully launched our product into market using the latest in additive manufacturing technologies at a very cost-competitive price. SONAMI enables companies to access the latest technologies and expertise available in additive manufacturing while allowing students who are involved in those projects to interact with and get exposure to the latest new ideas and products industry has to offer. It is a win-win situation for both industrial partners and SONAMI academic partners.

Q. Where do you find your ‘zone’ at work?

A. Personally, I enjoy new challenges and learning about new technologies, especially those that bridge the gaps between different fields. I thrive working hands-on with students, faculty and staff here at AMIC to help our industry partners find innovative solutions to their product design and manufacturing challenges, using the latest technologies in additive manufacturing.

Q. What have you learned working through the pandemic?

A. The key lesson learned through this tough time is that the ability to be agile and be able to pivot quickly is a major key to success. Being able to adapt to an always changing world and utilize all the available tools to make sure work gets completed in a timely manner is a skill we all need to master.

Connect with Sherif: [email protected]
Visit IDEAWORKS at Mohawk College HERE